Last Updated October 15, 2018 10/15/2018

See the Deepest River Gorge in the United States at Hells Canyon

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Hells Canyon is a dramatic gorge bordering between Oregon and western Idaho; it’s encompassed in the over 200,000 acres of Hells Canyon Wilderness. Massive granite walls often draped in furry green foliage and other plants plunge down to Snake River, which is credited to carving the deep crevice. Surprisingly, it’s even deeper than the Grand Canyon and holds the title of the deepest river gorge in the United States. An unusual geological structure and environment make it a place of diverse wildlife, and once in a lifetime activities.

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Let’s start with the basics, driving the roads that lead into the area prove to be the best way to get an overview. You’ll dip beside the towering walls while catching some prime views of the crystal clear water—vistas and overlooks scatter along the way. Oregon houses the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, a 213 mile stretch of paved road weaving through the Wallowa mountain range. Keep in mind, many Idaho and Oregon roads close down in the winter, making traversing challenging, so be sure to check ahead with the Department of Transportation.

Watersport, in general, are an allure thanks to a vast range of river rapids and a healthy wildlife population. Jet Boat tours zip passengers up and down the river, splashing and catching air over the whitewater. Probably one of the most thrilling ways to experience the Canyon, there’s a chance Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, River Otter, elk, bears, Osprey and eagles will make an appearance. An impressive stock of Small Mouth Bass, Sturgeon, and Rainbow Trout thrive in the glistening waters as well.

Hiking trails can range from simple day hikes to extensive trips that last for a week—camping in the valleys is serene, and even sometimes downright effortless at places like the Historic Kirkwood Ranch, which treats guests to flushing toilets. If you’ve ever really camped in the wilderness, you know what a site to behold a real toilet is. Along the Snake River Trail, another great hiking option, are views of Idaho’s famed Seven Devils Mountains.

In the winter, when many of the roads shut down, the deeper parts of the canyon still attract adventurers, partially because a minuscule amount of snow accumulates at those depths. Cross-country skiers and snowmobile enthusiasts take advantage of the rugged terrain at high elevations during these months.

Wallowa Whitman National Forest
Address: 1550 Dewey Ave. Suite A, Baker City OR 97814
Phone: (541) 523-6391
Official Website

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